The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb. Arthur A. Levine Books (an Imprint of Scholastic Inc.), 2013. 256 pages. Publisher recommends for ages 12 and older. ISBN: 9780545430999.
This review is based on an Advance Readers Copy I won in a contest.
In 1960, after Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi in charge of moving Jews into concentration camps, had been accurately identified in Argentina, the head of the Israeli Mossad, it’s secret intelligence organization, said to the team he had assembled to capture and transport Eichmann to Israel to stand trial:
“’I want to begin by speaking to you from my heart… This is a national mission of the first degree. It is not an ordinary capture operation but the capture of a hideous Nazi criminal, the most horrible enemy of the Jewish people. We are not performing this operation as adventurers but as representatives of the Jewish people and the state of Israel. Our objective is to bring Eichmann back safely, fully in good health, so he can be put to trial.
There might well be difficult repercussions. We know this. We have not only the right but the moral duty to bring this man to trial. You must remember this throughout the weeks ahead. You are Guardian Angels of justice, the emissaries of the Jewish people.’” (p. 90).
David Ben-Gurion, the Prime Minister of Israel, sanctioned the Eichmann operation. He wanted a trial of Eichmann to remind a new generation of the Holocaust and to ensure that the Holocaust is never forgotten.
This book is an exciting, fast-paced narrative of the identification of Eichmann and then of the operation the Mossad chief described in the quote above. Three separate phases of the operation were meticulously planned and carried out: Eichmann’s capture, his stay at a safe house until he could be safely removed from Argentina, and then his removal from Argentina and transfer to Israel.
The first 20 pages of the book describe what Eichmann did before and during World War II. These 20 pages are chilling and may be difficult reading for middle graders.
Those who stayed with Eichmann at the safe house had a very difficult time emotionally. Some of them lost family members during the Holocaust. All of them felt a sick evil coming from Eichmann. The El Al crew who manned the flight from Argentina to Israel with Eichmann aboard felt the same sick evil.
As an adult, I have questions this book doesn’t address. I’d like to know more about Eichmann’s trial. I’d like to know if there were repercussions from other countries when Israelis went into Argentina and removed Eichmann. But these are adult questions. I suspect kids will be fascinated by the book as it is. And just as Ben-Gurion wanted a new generation to learn about and remember the Holocaust, so it is important now that a new generation learn about the Holocaust.
For adults like me who would like to know more about Eichmann’s trial, there is a very highly rated book by Hannah Arendt called “Eichmann in Jerusalem.”